Historian: Nazis wanted to deport Jews to Soviet Union

BERLIN – A document found in a Moscow archive suggests the Soviet leadership may have rejected a Nazi German proposal to deport Jews from German-occupied territories to the Soviet Union in 1940.

A Russian historian working in Germany has published an article in the Sueddeutsche Zeitung newspaper describing a letter that raised the possibility of Germany resettling Jews in Ukraine and Siberia.

The historian, Pavel Polian, said he had obtained the letter, which was written by Yevgeny Chekmenyov, a Soviet official in charge of resettlement. It was addressed to then-Soviet foreign minister Vyacheslav Molotov and was dated February 9, 1940.

The letter, a portion of which was published in the Berliner Zeitung newspaper yesterday, discusses a German proposal made to the Moscow government to move more than 2 million Jews from Poland, Austria and Czechoslovakia to the Soviet Union.

There were no further details available about the original German letter.

But Polian said he believes it was written by Adolf Eichmann and Alois Brunner, who were in charge of Nazi Germany’s Jewish emigration centers in Berlin and Vienna.

Germany and the Soviet Union had a nonaggression pact at the time. But the Soviet leadership apparently rejected almost immediately the idea of accepting more than 2 million Jews from German-occupied countries, according to Polian.
“We cannot take these Jews. We have an awful lot of our own already,” Chekmenyov wrote in the letter to Molotov. He closed his letter by saying, “I would appreciate your guidance.”

The possible deportation of Jews to the Soviet Union was one option mulled by the German government, which was seeking to find a territorial solution to what the Nazis referred to as the “Jewish question.”

During the late 1930s and early 1940s, Nazi officials had also proposed other ways of evicting Jews from Europe, such as deporting them en masse to the island of Madagascar.